Schopenhauer's birthplace house, ul. Św. Ducha (formerly Heiligegeistgasse)
Schopenhauer was born on 22 February 1788, in the city of Danzig (then part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth; present day Gdańsk, Poland) on Heiligegeistgasse (known in the present day as Św. Ducha 47), the son of Johanna Schopenhauer (née Trosiener) and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, both descendants of wealthy German patrician families. When Danzig became part of Prussia in 1793, Heinrich moved to Hamburg, although his firm continued trading in Danzig. As early as 1799, Arthur started playing the flute.:30 In 1805, Schopenhauer's father died, possibly by suicide. Arthur endured two long years of drudgery as a merchant in honor of his dead father, but his mother soon moved with his sister Adele to Weimar—then the centre of German literature—to pursue her writing career. He dedicated himself wholly to studies at the Gotha gymnasium (
Gymnasium illustre zu Gotha ) in Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, but left in disgust after seeing one of the masters lampooned.
By that time, Johanna Schopenhauer had already opened her famous salon, and Arthur was not compatible with what he considered its vain and ceremonious ways. He was also disgusted by the ease with which his mother had forgotten his father's memory. He left to become a student at the University of Göttingen in 1809. There he studied metaphysics and psychology under Gottlob Ernst Schulze, the author of Aenesidemus, who advised him to concentrate on Plato and Immanuel Kant. In Berlin, from 1811 to 1812, he had attended lectures by the prominent post-Kantian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte and the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher.
Schopenhauer had a notably strained relationship with his mother. He wrote his first book, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, while at university. His mother informed him that the book was incomprehensible and it was unlikely that anyone would ever buy a copy. In a fit of temper Arthur Schopenhauer told her that his work would be read long after the "rubbish" she wrote would have been totally forgotten. In fact, although they considered her novels of dubious quality, the Brockhaus publishing firm held her in high esteem because they consistently sold well. Hans Brockhaus later recalled that, when she brought them some of her son's work, his predecessors "saw nothing in this manuscript, but wanted to please one of our best-selling authors by publishing her son's work. We published more and more of her son Arthur's work and today nobody remembers Johanna, but her son's works are in steady demand and contribute to Brockhaus'[s] reputation." He kept large portraits of the pair in his office in Leipzig for the edification of his new editors.
In 1814, Schopenhauer began his seminal work The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung). He finished it in 1818 and Brockhaus published it that December. In Dresden in 1819, Schopenhauer fathered, with a servant, an illegitimate daughter who was born and died the same year. In 1820, Schopenhauer became a lecturer at the University of Berlin. He scheduled his lectures to coincide with those of the famous philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, whom Schopenhauer described as a "clumsy charlatan". However, only five students turned up to Schopenhauer's lectures, and he dropped out of academia. A late essay, On University Philosophy, expressed his resentment towards the work conducted in academies.
Grave at Frankfurt Hauptfriedhof
In 1831, a cholera epidemic broke out in Berlin and Schopenhauer left the city. Schopenhauer settled permanently in Frankfurt in 1833, where he remained for the next twenty-seven years, living alone except for a succession of pet poodles named Atman and Butz. The numerous notes that he made during these years, amongst others on aging, were published posthumously under the title Senilia. Schopenhauer had a robust constitution, but in 1860 his health began to deteriorate. He died of pulmonary-respiratory failure, on 21 September 1860 while sitting at home on his couch. He was 72.